Careless Driving vs Dangerous Driving: Differences and Consequences in Ontario

Careless Driving vs Dangerous Driving Ontario

When it comes to driving offences in Ontario, understanding the difference between careless and dangerous driving is crucial. Although the two terms may sound similar, they have different meanings and entail different legal consequences. 

The main difference between careless driving and dangerous driving is that dangerous driving is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, while careless driving is a non-criminal charge under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act. A conviction for dangerous driving in Ontario will result in a criminal record, while careless driving – won’t. 

That’s why every driver needs to know the difference to make informed decisions while driving and better understand the legal outcomes of their actions. 

So, in this article, we’ll explore everything about dangerous driving vs careless driving Ontario, the legal and practical consequences of each, and what to do if you’re charged with either offence.

difference between dangerous driving vs careless driving ontario - infographics

What Is Careless Driving

According to section 130(1) of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act careless driving is operating a vehicle on a highway without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway. In Ontario, it is also known as driving without due care and attention.

This is a provincial offence, and such behaviour as failing to signal, following too closely, not paying attention to the road, texting and driving Ontario, driving and eating, or engaging in other distracting activities while behind the wheel can be considered careless driving in Ontario.

Careless driving is typically a less serious offence than dangerous driving and, as mentioned earlier, is prosecuted under the HTA.

The penalties in Ontario can vary depending on the specific circumstances, but you won’t get a criminal record because careless driving is not a criminal offence.

Penalties for Careless Driving in Ontario

  • a fine of up to $2,000
  • 6 demerit points
  • imprisonment for up to 6 months
  • a potential license suspension of up to two years
  • increased insurance rates

For careless driving cases where harm or death occurs to another person, there are more severe charges:

Penalties for Careless Driving Causing Bodily Harm or Death

  • a fine from $2,000 to $50,000
  • 6 demerit points
  • jail time up to 2 years
  • licence suspension for up to 5 years
  • increased insurance rates

What is Dangerous Driving

On the other hand, dangerous driving, also known as reckless driving, in Ontario is prosecuted under section 320.13(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. It is defined as a criminal offence that involves driving a vehicle in a manner that is hazardous to the public.

It is worth mentioning that any kind of irresponsible driving can be considered “dangerous”. And it must be proven that the driver was aware, or should have been aware, that their way of driving was dangerous. 

To be charged with dangerous driving, the driver must be accused of driving a motor vehicle with “wanton and reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others”. 

Examples of dangerous driving in Ontario may include:

  • driving at a very high speed, particularly in areas with heavy traffic, pedestrians or bicyclists;
  • failing to stop at a red light or stop sign;
  • weaving in and out of lanes or driving on the shoulder of the road;
  • dangerously passing other vehicles (for example, on a curve or hill);
  • driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol;
  • collisions or any other behaviour that creates a risk of harm to others.

Penalties for Dangerous Driving in Ontario

  • criminal record for life
  • fine
  • license suspension of up to 10 years (or even for life in some cases)
  • criminal probation
  • imprisonment for up to 5 years (or even more for cases that caused bodily harm or death)
  • dramatic insurance increase

In addition, a conviction for dangerous driving will have significant consequences for employment, travel, and other aspects of a person’s life.

Careless vs Dangerous Driving: Comparison Table of the Penalties in Ontario

PenaltyCareless drivingDangerous driving
Finesup to $2,000
*and up to $50,000 in some cases
no set limit
Demerit points6none assigned
License suspensionup to 2 yearsup to 10 years
Criminal recordnoyes
Imprisonmentup to 6 months
*and up to 2 years in some cases
up to 5 years
*or more in cases of causing death
Insurance impactsignificantdramatic

As you can see, careless driving penalties are typically less severe than reckless driving penalties. Moreover, dangerous driving carries the possibility of a criminal record – and this is the main difference between these offences.

It’s important to note that the severity of the penalties for both charges can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, such as the degree of harm caused or the driver’s prior record. Additionally, both offences can have a significant impact on your driving record, insurance rates, and overall driving & travel privileges. 

Therefore, it’s essential to take any traffic offence seriously and consider seeking legal advice if you are facing charges.

What to Do If Charged with Careless or Dangerous Driving in Ontario

If you are charged with careless driving or dangerous driving in Ontario, it is important to take specific steps to protect your legal rights and minimize the potential consequences. 

Here are some general guidelines for what to do if charged with either offence:

  1. Contact a lawyer: as soon as possible, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a traffic lawyer or criminal lawyer who has experience with driving offences. They can help you understand the charges, the potential penalties, and your options for defending yourself.
  2. Gather information to build a strong defence: you should gather as much information as possible about the incident leading to the charge, including witness statements, police reports, and photos or videos.
  3. Prepare for court: dress appropriately, be on time, and be prepared to answer questions about the incident. Your traffic ticket lawyer can help you prepare for everything and advise you on presenting yourself.
  4. Consider your plea: depending on the circumstances, you may want to consider pleading guilty or not guilty. Your lawyer can help you weigh the pros and cons of each option.
  5. Follow court orders: if you are convicted of careless or dangerous driving, you will likely be subject to court orders, such as fines, driving restrictions, or community service. It is essential to follow these orders to avoid further legal consequences.

Also, it is vital to cooperate with law enforcement and avoid making any statements that could be used against you in court. 

By taking these steps and working with an experienced traffic lawyer or criminal lawyer (in case of dangerous driving), you can protect your legal rights and minimize the potential consequences of a careless or dangerous driving charge in Ontario.

Thank you!